GUIDE TO AFON ELAN
NAME OF RIVER: Afon Elan.
WHERE IS IT?:The Elan proper begins high up on Esgair Elan (GR835745) before it flows into the Craig Goch Reservoir at Pont ar Elan. From this point on it is submerged beneath the vast watery expanses of three huge reservoirs. The romantic among us can only dream about the white water thrills that the river once boasted before the Birmingham Corporation vandalised the valley and drowned what was possibly one of the classic whitewater runs in mid Wales. However for the 21st century paddler it all
begins at the Caban Coch dam at the end of the B4518 running from Rhayader to the Elan Village.
Map.PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Put in as high as you dare but beware the visitors centre weir (photograph)which never fails to gobble the unwary. Personally I always walk it. It has been known to hold a boat for a day or two! Probably the best put in is just under the two small bridges at GR967656 on river right, just before you reach the Visitors Centre Car Park.
Getting off the river at Junction Pool is awkward and by far the best place get out is to continue down the Wye for a further 2km of bouncy Class 2 to Llanwrthwl bridge (GR977640. This can be reached by road following the A470 out of Rhayader towards Builth Wells.
There is another Bridge on the Elan at (GR954669) 3km from the get-in where it is possible to exit the river should the prospect of 2km of flat(ish) water to the junction with the Wye prove to be a trial. Jump out here and go and run the top section again?
APPROX LENGTH: 5 km to the Junction Pool and 7 km if you carry on down to Llanwrthyl on the Wye.
TIME NEEDED: As much as you need.
ACCESS HASSLES: The access situation is unclear. The Rangers at the Visitors Centre usually ignore you even when you put on right below the dam. However the usual story applies here, BIG GROUPS will cause problems id they are too obvious. THIS IS A RIVER FOR SMALL UNOBTRUSIVE GROUPS. However there are signs which indicate boating is prohibited. So class it as a bandit run.
At Llanwrthwl Bridge get out river right on the FAR SIDE. The guy who lives in the gatehouse cottage on the bridge is canoeist friendly and even helped me haul my boat out once when the river was running on high flood. But again big groups on this bridge will cause problems. Park your car down the road a little on the left hand side or if there are a few cars take two minutes to park in Llanwryhwl village and walk back.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: If the dam is flowing you will see it clearly as you drive up the valley, for the river to be in good boating condition the measuring weir by the visitors centre is the yardstick. There are three gauges here, one in the river (gauge 1) and another two situated higher up the bank (gauges 2 and 3).
Gauge 1 should be registering 8 or 9 as a minimum level for paddling although preferably submerged with gauge 2 registering 1 or 2. At this level the top section is running at a good Class 2+. If the second gauge is above 2 then the grade notches up to class 3. In very high water when the dam is spilling and releasing (rare event but be there when it does!) hold onto your helmet for a fantastic roller coaster ride.
GRADING: Class 2 at most levels but the pinning potential and mid stream strainers in the top section should make river leaders wary when leading novices.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Weirs. Trees.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Apart from the weirs already detailed the top section is a long boulder garden with strainers mid stream to catch the unwary paddler. A further weir below the two bridges should be inspected in high water but can be run river left. Easy rapids take the paddler to the next road bridge and from there to Junction Pool. This is announced by a low pedestrian suspension bridge spanning the river. Before you turn to run down the Wye look left to the Class 3 'Railway Rapid' emerging from under the disused railway bridge. This is best approached from Rhayader as part of another classic Class 2/3 run ending at Llanwrthwl Bridge.
Once on the Wye continue down over small drops and class 2 rapids, stopping to play on the wave by the large country house on river left.